Kampe: 'No one has impacted Oakland basketball like Keith Benson'
“I do want to say that I’m a little disappointed in the crowd tonight,” Kampe said. “I don’t know if we’re ever going to have another Keith Benson and he’s only got about nine more home games left here. This is a good basketball team and that kid is a great player and we may never see something like this again here. So I would hope more people will come out and enjoy it.”
The Grizzlies' crowd saw nearly 500 more patrons Saturday than for Thursday's conference and home opener against Southern Utah, with 2,505 as the listed attendance.
Kampe further clarified his comments Monday on WXOU:
“I wasn’t criticizing the attendance, especially the students. They’re fantastic. We’ve got the Grizz Gang at over 1,000 strong and we’ve got to be in the top 25 in the country in student attendance. We’re not at the same level as Duke, but we’re making our way," he said.
“My issue is … there hasn’t been a player that has impacted basketball at Oakland like Keith Benson has. His record proves it. …You have a chance, for a cheap price to sit no higher than 14 rows from the action to see a kid of that talent. This is a really good team. You can get in for $7 to see that brand of basketball, I’m shocked it’s not sold out."
The coach also mentioned a "person in the know" told him if Benson keeps his play consistent with what he's done thus far, he could be a top-five pick in the NBA draft.
(Why Benson won't get ALL the recognition he deserves from his own league)
Kampe was more optimistic about the attendance for conference games further down the road.
"I’m getting spoiled. The last half of the season last year, we were turning people away," Kampe said. "With the home-court advantage we have, we’ve won 23 straight league games at home, 15 consecutive home games and 30 of our last 31 home games, people are getting value for their money. For their entertainment dollar, it’s the cheapest one and we’re winning.
“It’s great basketball. I was a little bit shocked. I was expected a little over 3,000.”
An audience of that size in the O'Rena would be a capacity crowd.
Saturday's tip with Michigan State at The Palace is a perfect opportunity for fans to get out and see Benson, the nation's No. 5 center according to Rivals.com.
Benson is currently ranked in the top five in three NCAA categories: third in double-doubles (six), fifth in rebounds per game (12.3) and fifth in blocked shots per game (3.6). Benson is also the team's leading scorer, averaging 19.1 points per game.
Saturday's performance (20/10) was Benson's fourth straight double-double and sixth of the season, leading the conference in the superlative category. He was last week's conference player of the week and the reigning conference player of the year. He was picked to repeat that honor in the Summit League's preseason poll.